I remember the first time that my husband and I talked about marriage. It was in Itaewon in Seoul, over a bubbling bowl of kimchi jjigae in a basic, grotty restaurant, and we laid out plans on when we wanted to eventually tie the knot. We gave ourselves two years. Two years to work hard, to prepare and plan, and after those two years we’d move in together and begin the rigmarole of the marriage process.
It was very matter-of-fact, very grown-up of me, and I am glad that we did it that way. Mainly because marrying a foreigner is not something that anyone should undertake lightly, mostly due to the extensive vetting process of visas and embassies, and the very unromantic but very necessary trips to bland government offices.
So we didn’t have a proposal, my husband didn’t get down on one knee and embarrass me in public, (thank goodness!) and instead we just came to a mutual agreement over time about what we wanted from life and each other.
Yet with everything in our relationship there are always sacrifices and compromises that we must undertake in order to respect both of our cultures. I wasn’t going to have a wedding, and I didn’t have a proposal, both of which I was completely fine with, but I did, if nothing else, want an engagement ring.
However, engagement rings just aren’t that popular in Korea. People have plain wedding bands, or maybe something cheap from the jewellery district of 종로3가, which is full of cubic zirconia and other such things. Which I mean is fine, if that is what you want, but it definitely wasn’t for me.
So when I told my fiance at the time that I wanted a ring it took a bit of persuading and convincing, but I eventually got him on board in the end! haha.
So about six months before we married, we went to a hanok stay in 북촌한옥마을. Which is a part of Seoul filled with old, beautiful, traditional houses (known as ‘hanoks’).
We barbecued on the small patio outside open wooden doors, and slept on the heated ondol flooring. I had been in Korea for eight years at that point, but had never experienced a hanok stay, so it was a lovely, peaceful experience to have in the city.
The next morning, and once we checked out, we made our way to Times Square in Yeongdeungpo, and decided to have a look at the luxury jewellers there to just get some inspiration for my engagement ring. It was completely spur of the moment, and completely unexpected, but when we were in one particular shop my fiance surprised me by offering to buy me the ring of my dreams.
I know it was partly because he didn’t want to have deal with searching for something by himself, and also because I am incredibly picky when it comes to jewellery. But if I can tell people that my husband, kinda, sorta, not really, but almost, proposed in Cartier then I’ll take it!
Marrying outside of your culture is always going to be full of compromise, but if you choose those compromises and battles wisely, then it all becomes completely worth in it in the end. And not just because of the hanok stays and diamonds, although those certainly help!